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   Chapter 74 February 17th.

Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 3255

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


... Yzore is a calendeuse.

The calendeuses are the women who make up the beautiful Madras turbans and color them; for the amazingly brilliant yellow of these head-dresses is not the result of any dyeing process: they are all painted by hand. When purchased the Madras is simply a great oblong handkerchief, having a pale green or pale pink ground, and checkered or plaided by intersecting bands of dark blue, purple, crimson, or maroon. The calendeuse lays the Madras upon a broad board placed across her knees,-then, taking a camel's-hair brush, she begins to fill in the spaces between the bands with a sulphur-yellow paint, which is always mixed with gum-arabic. It requires a sure eye, very steady fingers, and long experience to do this well.... After the Madras has been "calendered" (calendé) and has become quite stiff and dry, it is folded about the head of the purchaser after the comely Martinique fashion,-which varies considerably from the modes popular in Guadeloupe or Cayenne,-is fixed into the form thus obtained; and can thereafter be taken off or put on without arrangement or disarrangement, like a cap. The price for calendering a Madras is now two francs and fifteen sous;-and for making-up the turban, six sous additional, except in Carnival-time, or upon holiday occasions, when the price rises to twenty-five sous.... The making-up of the Madras into a turban is called "tying a head" (marré yon tête); and a prettily folded turban is spoken of as "a head well tied" (yon tête bien marré).... However, the profession of calendeuse is far from being a lucrative one: it is two or three days' work to c

alender a single Madras well....

But Yzore does not depend upon calendering alone for a living: she earns much more by the manufacture of moresques and of chinoises than by painting Madras turbans.... Everybody in Martinique who can afford it wears moresques and chinoises. The moresques are large loose comfortable pantaloons of thin printed calico (indienne),-having colored designs representing birds, frogs, leaves, lizards, flowers, butterflies, or kittens,-or perhaps representing nothing in particular, being simply arabesques. The chinoise is a loose body-garment, very much like the real Chinese blouse, but always of brightly colored calico with fantastic designs. These things are worn at home during siestas, after office-hours, and at night. To take a nap during the day with one's ordinary clothing on means always a terrible drenching from perspiration, and an after-feeling of exhaustion almost indescribable-best expressed, perhaps, by the local term: corps écrasé. Therefore, on entering one's room for the siesta, one strips, puts on the light moresques and the chinoise, and dozes in comfort. A suit of this sort is very neat, often quite pretty, and very cheap (costing only about six francs);-the colors do not fade out in washing, and two good suits will last a year.... Yzore can make two pair of moresques and two chinoises in a single day upon her machine.

... I have observed there is a prejudice here against treadle machines;-the creole girls are persuaded they injure the health. Most of the sewing-machines I have seen among this people are operated by hand,-with a sort of little crank....

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